BACKGROUND INFORMATION, FACULTY & SYLLABUS
Summer Seminar on “Critical Thinking in the 21st Century” Institute for Social & European Studies, Köszeg, Hungary, 8 July – 5 August 2012
Sgrafitto House, Köszeg, Hungary
Background Information ISES’ Seminar on Critical Thinking in the 21st Century has developed out of our sense that college and university students are often being poorly educated about the profound challenges we will face in the next few decades as “globalization” continues to play out across the globe. Unfortunately, many institutions of higher education tend to present 'knowledge' as bits and pieces of disconnected information that are commodified in a manner that mirrors the larger tendencies in consumer societies. One of the unfortunate consequences of this is that many educational initiatives are not intellectually engaging students in the forms of critical analyses that will be necessary to enable them to confront the challenges that the 21st century will provide. The Seminar on Critical Thinking in the 21st Century is meant therefore to assist students in making sense of our world by providing students with the foundation upon which they can begin to create critical narratives about the human project in which meaning is again central. In the words of the contemporary German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, the seminar will help students to develop the “common ethical-political dimension that would be necessary for a corresponding global community.”
Seminar Coordinator – Dr. James Skelly Dr. James Skelly is a Professor at ISES: Coordinator for Peace & Justice Programming for BCA Study Abroad; Visiting Professor of Peace Studies, and Resident Director for BCA, at Magee College, University of Ulster in Derry, Northern Ireland; and Senior Fellow at the Baker Institute for Peace & Conflict Studies at Juniata College. Earlier in his career he served as Associate Director of the University of California's Institute on Global Conflict & Cooperation; New York University's Center for War, Peace and the News Media; Associate Director of the Irish Peace Institute; and Academic Coordinator of the European University Center for Peace Studies in Austria. Dr. Skelly holds a BA from the University of Minnesota, and an MA and PhD from the University of California, San Diego. His most recent publication is “Fostering Engagement: The Role of International Education in the Development of Global Civil Society.” Additional Faculty Professor David Coombes, University of Limerick, Ireland Dr. Jody Jensen, Director of International Relations, ISES Dr. Carl Jubran, President, Institute for American Universities, France Professor J.D. Mininger, Vytautus Magnus University, Lithuania Professor Ferenc Miszlivetz, UNESCO Chair, and Founder of ISES Professor John Zarobell, University of San Francisco The Syllabus The seminar will have two inter-related foci – the information environment engendered by the new information technologies, and the emerging political and economic structures stimulated by globalization, or as some would have it, “Empire.” Initially it will attempt to map our condition by moving outward from the Self through the social, economic, political, and psychological assumptions that constrain our ability to engage with the circumstances we face. Concretely, this means an initial in-depth exploration of how new information technologies are shaping and informing individual identity, social and economic structures, and our ways of engaging politically. The second part of the seminar will then focus on the transformations in the political and economic realm wrought by globalization, and the strategies that will be necessary to insure that the interconnectedness of our world is experienced as ethical and just. Overall Structure The Seminar on Critical Thinking in the 21st Century is a 4-week residential program of intensive reading, writing, reflection, and discussion divided into two inter-related parts. Seminar sessions will meet for three hours each morning from Monday through Saturday, and two evenings during each week. Generally students will be expected to read at least two assigned books as well as supplementary articles each week. One should expect to read between 100-150 pages per day. Several students will report on the assigned readings at each seminar session, although all students will be expected to be familiar with the principal issues raised in the reading. The lead students who report on a specific reading will be expected to raise issues or questions that the readings have brought forward, and the seminar coordinator, additional faculty, and other students will respond with their own reflections and comments. The idea is to stimulate a conversation around issues of importance in the readings and more broadly. Readings have been chosen to stimulate the imagination, not to catalog facts, so students should read accordingly! Readings should be completed prior to each session and sufficient time has been scheduled so that reading can be done in the afternoons and some evenings.
Assessment: Students will be evaluated on the basis of contributions and presentations in class, one or two short essays per week, and a final extended paper within a month of the seminar’s conclusion. PART I: The Information Environment Given the overwhelming amount of information in disconnected bits that we often find ourselves swimming in, it has become increasingly difficult to develop a coherent sense of what is happening in the actual world rather than in the limited virtual worlds we increasingly seem to inhabit. The tsunami of information that we are now subjected to seems to imply that ever more frequently human minds have a mass of bits of information strewn incoherently about in a manner that mimics the images of the devastation that followed the horrific 2011 tsunami In Japan. The explosion of information that has occurred since World War II grows ever larger daily. A recent study indicated that using digital and analog devices we are now able to store 295 exabytes (put 20 zeros after the 295) of information which is 315 times the number of grains of sand in the world. According to Science Daily, humans successfully sent 1.9 zetabytes of information in 2007 through broadcast technology such as televisions and GPS units. That's equivalent to every person in the world reading 174 newspapers every day. Information theorists argue that information is independent of meaning because, as the scientist Freeman Dyson has noted, “information could be handled with greater freedom if it was treated as a mathematical abstraction independent of meaning,” and that it is the immense size of the databases that gives us “a feeling of meaninglessness.” Therefore, the initial task of the seminar is to provide students with a critical perspective on their information environment that will allow them to develop strategies that might contribute to the human task, in Dyson’s words “to bring meaning back into this wasteland.” Week #1 (9 – 13 July): Focus: Technology and the Internet Required Readings Postman, Neil, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (New York: Vintage Books, 1993) (222 Pages) Carr, Nicholas, The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember (London: Atlantic Books, 2011) (384 Pages) Week #2 (14 – 20 July) Focus: The History and Social Consequences of Information Required Readings Gleick, James, The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood (London: 4th Estate, 2012) (544 Pages) Lanier, Jaron, You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto (London: Penguin Books, 2010) (224 Pages)
PART II: Globalization and Contemporary Political Economy The second part of the seminar will explore the history of “globalization,” the development of the Industrial Revolution, and various issues related to the transformative economic, social, and political aspects of capitalist economic systems. These sessions will therefore attend to the transformation of identity, the decline of national economic and political sovereignty, the emerging post-national political structures, new forms of colonization and imperialism including the de-territorialized form of empire which Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri argue is cloaked by the term "globalization." Finally, as a way of tying the first and second parts of the seminar together we will speculate on whether the new information technologies are to new imperial forms what the roads were to the Romans and the railways to 19th century territorial forms of empire. Week #3 (21 – 27 July) Focus: Globalization – A History Hobsbawm, E.J., The Age of Capital, 1848-75 (London: Abacus Books, 2004) (416 Pages) Harvey, David, The Enigma of Capital: And the Crises of Capitalism (London: Profile Books, 2011) (320 Pages) Fisher, Mark, Capitalist Realism (Winchester, UK: Zero Books, 2009) (81 Pages) Week #4 (28 July – 3 August) Focus: New Forms of Domination and Resistance Sassen, Saskia, Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008) (512 Pages) Hardt, Michael and Negri, Antonio, Multitude (New York: Penguin Books, 2004 (426 Pages) Additional Notes Regarding Participation in the Seminar: There will be a maximum of 20 students as seminar participants, and as with the criteria for acceptance into the seminar, students will be expected to demonstrate a commitment to reading, writing and speaking clearly and cogently, and a general desire to study. There will be no time for excursions including weekends during the seminar except for walks in the surrounding countryside, so that those who may feel the need for touristic experiences should insure that they are scheduled before or after the seminar. Similarly, for very serious pedagogical reasons involving deep reading and the ability to sustain attention and focus, use of the internet during the four weeks of the seminar will be restricted and strongly discouraged .
Additional Recommended Reading: • Barber, Benjamin, Jihad vs. McWorld(New York: Random House, Inc., 1996). • Ehrenreich, Barbara, Nickel and Dimed(New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2002). • Ehrenreich, Barbara and Hochschild, Arlie, editors, Global Woman(London: Granta Books, 2002). • Friedman, Milton, Capitalism and Freedom (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002) • Greider, William, One World, Ready or Not(New York: Touchstone, 1997). • Hardt, Michael and Negri, Antonio, Commonwealth(Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 2009) • Hardt, Michael and Negri, Antonio, Empire (Cambridge, Masachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2000) • Harvey, David, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) • Kaldor, Mary, New & Old Wars(Cambridge, Massachusetts: Basil Blackwell, Inc., 1999). • Korten, David C., When Corporations Rule the World(Bloomfield, Connecticut: Kumarian Press, Inc., 2001). • Johnson, Chalmers, The Sorrows of Empire(New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2004) • Murphy, Richard, The Courageous State(London: Searching Finance, 2011) • Rogers, Paul, Losing Control: Global Security in the Twenty-First Century(Pluto Press, London, 2000). • Sassen, Saskia, A Sociology of Globalization (Molecular Solid State) (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2007) • Sontag, Susan, Regarding the Pain of Others(London: Penguin Books Ltd., 2003). • Stiglitz, Joseph, Globalization and Its Discontents(London: Penguin Press, 2002). • The Invisible Committee, The Coming Insurrection (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2009). • Žižek, Slavoj, First As Tragedy, Then As Farce(London: Verso, 2009) Practical Details Venue: Sgrafitto House, Köszeg, Hungary Dates: 8 July – 5 August 2012 Application Deadline: 15 May 2012 Further Information Contact: Dr. James Skelly – firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com